Cultural differences in a marriage can be absolutely beautiful if both cultures are admired and respected. Because our cultures are so much a part of who we are, I did not think to ask specific questions before marriage that ended up impacting our daily lives.
Here are some of my experiences in an intercultural marriage. For the purpose of this blog, I will refer to our cultures as "his" and "my,” to avoid making generalizations about Caribbean and American culture.
This is one of my favorites about his culture. The food is so flavorful and truly satisfying. It's not just the dishes that are different, but the meal prep too. How the food is cleansed and prepped for cooking takes time and is very important. He didn’t have to tell me he didn’t like my food, I could tell because he wouldn’t eat it and he would take over or offer advice almost every time he saw me cook. I’ve tried studying under some of his family members. Thankfully, I have mastered two dishes, but am still learning…
We met at work, so I thought I had a clear understanding of his work style. Little did I know, his upbringing outside of my country and him witnessing so many people without, largely influenced his reason for working and how he viewed jobs. I would get frustrated after not seeing him for days even a week, because we was working. It became clear to me that our work ethic and motives were completely different.
3. Financially Supporting Parents
I always had in my mind that after retirement or when our parents could no longer take care of themselves we would care for them. However, financially supporting our parents while they are working was a conversation we never had — and since it is not a part of my culture, I never thought to ask. He too thought it was obvious that we are responsible for the people who brought us into this world whether they are working or not.
Music is a vital part of our everyday lives. We wake up to it, cook and clean to it. Culturally, he prefers the the upbeat uplifting sounds of Reggae and he did not care for my 90s Slow Jams and R&B. It’s interesting being in our home now, because we play two different genres of music at the same time.
I smile most of the time especially around strangers - it naturally is how I greet people. His face looks unbothered, and he only shows teeth when he is happy or something is funny.
6. Cultural Pride
He comes from a very prideful people -- which depending on who you are can be intimidating, annoying and/or admirable. They look the best, cook the best, have the best music, amongst other things. His confidence is sometimes mistaken as arrogance. I admire how much he knows about and reveres his culture -- it made me do some research of my own.
7. Concept of Time
I am frequently late, but I am always trying to do better with my time management. His culture’s laid back approach to life completely ignores the clock. There is no rushing and things will get done when they do. It can be stressful at times knowing “soon” could mean "next year" and “five minutes” could mean “two hours.”
For the first year, I did not understand some of his family members, even though they speak English (British). Not only are a few words different, but expressions were different as well. If I was in pain, he would said “ush” which I interpreted to him saying “hush.” He also sucks his teeth, which is disrespectful in my culture.
9. Natural Remedies
My family is anti-drugs. Even if I have a headache, I prefer to sleep it off versus pop a pill. The first time he made me a honey concoction for my sour throat was miraculous. It healed my throat immediately while tasting great at the same time. He also makes soups, teas and other natural remedies for different ailments.
10. Individualism or Collectivism
When marrying another person, sometimes it means marrying their family, especially if they come from a collectivistic culture. This means supporting each other, taking on others problems, providing for each other, the list goes on.
11. Childrearing & Familial Roles
Gender roles and childrearing definitely complicated things for our marriage. In his culture, women are largely responsible for raising children, wives serve their husbands and the men are the providers. This was a very new concept for me growing up in a family with no gender specific roles.
Everyone essentially comes from a different culture because how our family raises us shapes our values and norms no matter what country we are born in. Prior to getting married our intercultural relationship was funny, interesting and cool. After living with these differences (I only listed ten above) and starting a family, we were forced to have deeper conversations about our cultural differences and how we would make it work.